Light Duty

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 9/25/2016
NMLEA STANDARDS: Not Applicable LAST MODIFIED: 8/17/2016 LAST REVIEW: 8/17/2016


The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines governing light duty assignments within the Sheriff’s Office.


When a request for a light duty assignment has been made, it is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office to evaluate staffing levels, agency needs, circumstances surrounding the need for light duty, and the employee’s defined limitations or restrictions prior to making an assignment. When it is in the best interest of the agency to provide for such, the Sheriff’s Office may afford an employee the opportunity for a light duty assignment.


The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this policy:

  • Light Duty – A temporary job assignment outside of regular duties due to physical restrictions, mental restrictions, or challenges that may hinder or limit normal job performance; which is based upon a licensed medical physician’s or mental health professional’s evaluation.



Light duty assignments are at the sole discretion of the Sheriff based on current agency needs, any information received regarding the physical or mental limitations of the employee, and whether the injury was sustained on or off-duty. Generally, light duty assignments are of limited duration and availability. Light duty assignments may be denied or terminated at any time at the discretion of the Sheriff.

Priority for light duty placement is normally given for on-duty and workers’ compensation related accidents, regardless of existing light duty assignment “seniority.” Off-duty injuries or illnesses are a secondary priority. Workers’ compensation related assignments are generally limited to 60 calendar days. Non-workers’ compensation related assignments are generally limited to 30 calendar days. Extensions may be made at the discretion of the Sheriff. The San Juan County Employee Handbook dictates the duration any individual on worker’s compensation, who cannot return to his or her pre-injury job duties, will be retained.


An employee’s use of sick leave for injury or illness is governed by the San Juan County Employee Handbook, Sections 8 & 10. As required by these policies, employees who are unable to report to work due to illness or injury are required to notify their supervisor or other designated individual before the scheduled start of their workday. Furthermore, if an employee is absent from work for three or more consecutive days due to an illness or injury, a physician’s statement may be required.

Consideration for light duty assignments will not be given in situations where an employee will be unable to fulfill their regular work schedule for 40 hours or less. If a medical evaluation deems an employee’s condition presents the probability of a disturbance of more than 40 hours to their regular work schedule, he or she may request consideration for a light duty assignment. In these cases, the following notifications must be made.

Upon learning of a physical restriction, mental restriction, or challenge that may hinder immediate job performance for more than 40 hours, an employee must promptly notify his or her immediate supervisor via a memorandum or email and confirm receipt of the correspondence. If a treating physician was not the originating source of the notice of injury to the employee, he or she must seek a prompt medical evaluation from a licensed medical physician or mental health professional.

Following the medical evaluation, notification to the supervisor is accompanied by a written statement or note from the physician or mental health professional, defining:

  • The employee’s general physical or mental condition or challenge;
  • Any would-be job-related limitations; and
  • An anticipated timeframe of treatment or recuperation.

If consideration for a light duty assignment is being requested, the employee must include a memorandum indicating such with this documentation.

The supervisor will forward the request, notification, and all documentation supplied by the physician, to the Support Services Lieutenant who will then forward the documentation up the affected chain of command to the Sheriff for notification and approval.

Upon receipt of an employee’s request for consideration for light duty, the Support Services Lieutenant will notify the San Juan County Human Resources Department so the employee can be informed of his or her options under FMLA or ADA as appropriate.

In the case of pregnancy, a medical professional’s note or written statement must simply provide pregnancy verification, expectancy date, and would-be job-related limitations. The need, choice, and time to be removed from regular duty, and request for light duty assignment, are determined by the employee.

In order to comply with all HIPAA regulations, the Sheriff’s Office will not maintain or store any medical documentation regarding an employee’s mental or physical health. Once received and reviewed, all documentation will be forwarded to Human Resources.

If approved for a light duty assignment, the employee will be notified of which supervisor they are to report to. In cases where light duty is denied, the employee must utilize the options afforded to them by the San Juan County Employee Handbook for time off due to the injury or illness.


If approved, light duty assignments are generally restricted to the agency’s facilities. However, depending on the employee’s limitations and trade, skills, or technical abilities, temporary assignments may be made at alternate locations.

Employees assigned to light duty report to the immediate supervisor overseeing their particular light duty assignment. These employees may have their job description, duties, work shift, hours, and place of work changed during the course of their light duty to fit the work assignment. Employees will wear acceptable clothing as dictated by policy, or as directed by the supervisor if the assignment dictates deviation from normal dress standards.

For the same reason that an employee is on light duty and not able to complete their normal job functions, they will not drive a marked patrol vehicle, wear a department uniform, insignia, badge, or carry visible firearms or other weapons that would identify them as a law enforcement officer and misrepresent to the general public they can be called upon to act in that capacity. Nothing in this policy prohibits certified personnel from carrying a concealed firearm after having gone through the proper agency approval and qualification process.

Employees on light duty will not be assigned a take-home vehicle and will park their issued vehicle at the Sheriff’s Office. If their condition (limitations and prescribed medications) do not prohibit such, and their light duty assignment requires driving from the Sheriff’s Office or main county complex, they will have access to an unmarked vehicle for those specific tasks.

Once the treating physician has determined that the employee is able to return to his or her regular duties, the employee will, without delay, notify their regular duty supervisor, the light duty supervisor, and the Support Services Lieutenant. The original written release from the licensed medical physician or mental health professional will be promptly forwarded to the Support Services Lieutenant who will forward it to Human Resources.


If approved for light duty assignment, the employee is expected to attend all physical therapy or other approved and scheduled medical treatment prescribed by the treating physician. Failure to attend or otherwise follow the treating physician’s treatment plan, limitations, and recommendations, both on and off-duty, are grounds for termination of light duty, and denial of future light duty assignment requests.

During any light duty assignment, the employee will be required to provide their light duty supervisor an updated note or written statement following every related visit to the treating licensed medical physician or mental health professional. The note or statement must provide information regarding:

  • The employee’s current condition;
  • Whether or not the condition is improving;
  • Any changes to limitations or restrictions;
  • Date of the next appointment; and
  • An anticipated timeframe of remaining treatment or recuperation.

The supervisor will forward the note or written statement to the Support Services Lieutenant. After reviewing the update, the Support Services Lieutenant will forward all documentation to Human Resources.

Employees will not work in a secondary employment capacity while on light duty. Employees assigned to light duty are not eligible for overtime assignments which consist of physical duties and risks consistent with their regular duties, from which their licensed medical physician or mental health professional has deemed them unable to perform.

Employees will not intentionally place themselves in a position that may exacerbate or otherwise worsen the existing medical condition or possibly place the employee, other employees, or the public at unnecessary risk.

Training requests submitted by employees on light duty will be evaluated with consideration given to the validity of the topic to the employees’ pre-injury position, the employee’s training history, past job performance, and any physically demanding aspect of the course compared with any limitations the licensed medical physician or mental health professional has put in place. If the training is found to be applicable by the above considerations, it may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of pregnancy, training requests that have been deemed fitting by the above criteria may be approved. If a pregnant employee elects to attend any course that is known or described to be physically demanding, the employee will submit a memorandum to the Sheriff, acknowledging she understands the physical aspect and wishes to attend.

An employee’s participation in promotional or specialty assessments will not be precluded due to being on light duty. However, any established assessment which requires a physically taxing aspect to the assessment (e.g. SWAT, bomb squad, etc.), may render the employee ineligible for participation if the licensed medical physician or mental health professional’s restrictions contradict such actions or activities.


  1. San Juan County Employee Handbook; Sections 8, 10, & 12
  2. Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)
  3. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
  4. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)